French writer/director Anne Fontaine envisions Gustav Flaubert’s classic 19th century novel “Madame Bovary” for contemporary times. The story revolves around Martin Joubert (Fabrice Lucchini), an unhappily married baker who fled from Paris to seek tranquility in the Normandy countryside. An avid reader, his favorite book is “Madame Bovary,” which was written in this same provincial village. Read on…
When a young British couple buys a rustic, dilapidated house nearby, he immediately befriends artistic Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and her furniture-restorer husband Charles (Jason Flemyng), who share the same surname – only they spell it “Bovery.”
In an erotic sequence reminiscent of “Chocolat,” Martin offers to teach Gemma how to bake bread and, literally, salivates as he watchers her knead her first baguette in his steamy kitchen.
In Martin’s fanciful imagination, there’s a distinct parallel between ill-fated Emma Bovary and flirtatious Gemma. Like her fictional counterpart, bored housewife Gemma impulsively embarks on an adulterous affair with an aristocratic law student, Herve de Bressigny (Niels Schneider), who is ostensibly studying in his family’s chateau.
Working with co-scriptwriter Pascal Bonitzer, Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel,” “Adore”) has adapted the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, whose update of “Far From the Madding Crowd” became Stephen Frears’ “Tamara Drew,” also starring Gemma Arterton. It’s a clever conceit.
In a New York Times interview, Ms. Fontaine explained, “In French, we have the word ‘bovarysme,’ which means never being satisfied, always hoping for something that never arrives. We all have that, and it’s what makes Emma so universal.”
Comic actor Fabrice Lucchini is superb, reflecting middle-aged Martin’s obsessive, long-suppressed sexuality, while lovely Gemma Arterton embodies his lustful fantasies. That’s epitomized most blatantly when a bee stings Gemma’s back and she insists that besotted Martin unbutton her dress and lasciviously suck out the venom.
In French with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Gemma Bovary” is a sensual, satirical 6, making your mouth water – for fresh, flaky croissants.